So I was watching the coverage of Notre Dame Cathedral burning down and I had a bunch of thoughts wandering through the brain. Those annoying and nagging thoughts. You know – those thoughts you really don't want to say out loud for anyone else to here? Like that time you really wanted to tell your cousin Dave you really didn't like his new girlfriend?
“Huh. There's now over 600 million raised. Wow. Lots of that funding could probably be used elsewhere – like in 3rd world countries.”
"Not many people seem to care about the 3 black churches that just burned down to arson in Louisiana."
“A good portion of my friends have a lot of hate for the church. Yet, they lament the burning down of Notre Dame?”
“The church is not a building. It's the people.”
And I am thankful that I have a great influence in my life who really puts things into perspective. “Sure Lyle, people hate the church... but they really have no clue what they even hate. Let them be sad.”
Now, it's not my intent to be callous. I'm Grumpy Pastor, not callous and mean pastor. I just like to go around pointing to what I see as the bigger truth. And sometimes that truth is a real pain in the crepes.
You've heard the cliché, “Life Imitates Art”? Well sometimes it goes far beyond that and life actually imitates life. See, the church has been burning down for a lot longer than just Notre Dame on Monday. In the United States it's been burning down for at least 70 years – as butts sitting in the pews, membership in congregations, and dollars flowing into offering plates have been on a constant slide for at least that long. In Europe, with a super small fraction of the population (lower single digits) actually going to worship on a Sunday, it's been burning down since before World War II.
And the church has done a great job of finding ways to keep the self-imploding fire going.
The church has poured lots of gas on itself and given the nearest bystander the match.
I know this. It's absolutely sad that an 850 year old church building, a beacon of history that survived numerous occupations and wars, a symbol for an entire city has burned to the ground. I'm sad about it – I've seen numerous amazing Cathedrals before similar to Notre Dame and they're breathtaking examples of divine gifts expressed through human ingenuity. As a metaphor? Well, the church has been burning to the ground for a long time. And to be frank, it's not done burning, and it needs to burn a whole bunch more.
The message of the Gospel, or the Good News of Jesus Christ, is that out of death, life happens. Resurrection happens all over the place whether it be our own literal deaths, the thousands of figurative deaths we face in our lifetimes, the deaths of communities and practices, or even the deaths of stars and galaxies, God always wins. As one of my mentors has said to me, "God is always on the side of life." Death is conquered. The burning of Notre Dame, or the metaphorical burning down of the modern church... something better is on its way. It'll come out of the ashes. That's resurrection.
And it will burn more. In rich, white, North America and Europe, while the church is still smoldering, their fires will eventually burn out. And something is happening elsewhere in the world. In the 3rd world, in the Southern Hemisphere, where churches are bursting at the seems. God is doing something new. And chances are pretty good, if you're reading this blog, God's plans for something new probably don't include you.
Smell ya later,
PROTESTING PROTESTORS AND THE PROTESTORS WHO PROTEST THEM, HOW AMERICA ISN’T A CHRISTIAN NATION, AND HOW GRACE AND FORGIVENESS ARE SOOOOOOOOOOO 2000 YEARS AGO.
*sigh*. I decided to watch the full-length extended video(s) of the protesting falderal that happened on the National Mall last week. It was just steps in front of the Lincoln Memorial. You know, the memorial for that one guy? He said “our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal” – that guy? It’s also not that far from the spot where that Martin Luther King Jr. guy preached “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
The irony isn’t lost on me. And now that I’ve said that, it’s probably not lost on you either.
And everybody has an opinion about this mess it seems. Most of the opinions go like this:
Chances are the opinion you take sides with is whoever you normally ally with in everything else. There’s nothing new in your opinion. It’s just as tribal as all your previous opinions.
And so, our public discourse goes on. And on. And on. And on.
What if, just what if, now hear me out on this one… these opinions about how evil, rotten and nasty the other side is, what if, they’re just plain wrong? What if in our current time, the great American disease isn’t family values, or wealthy vs. poverty, or evil liberals or evil conservatives or Elizabeth Warren, Nancy Pelosi, or Donald Trump, or any other number of boogieman culprits we like to blame things on. What if the Great American disease is actually trying to convince others of your own rightness, and the other person’s wrongness? And then we further cement our own rightness by surrounding ourselves in the echo chamber of people who agree with us. We watch our news channel and read the articles that tell us how right we are.
The chasm widens.
Now I watched a couple of different versions of the entire video. It looked to me like two opposing groups (Covington High school students and Hebrew Black Israelites) were throwing jarring insults at each other, pretty much started by the Hebrew Black Israelites, as they look to be a wee bit on the more extreme and bold side of life. Then comes a third group (the Native Americans) who were either trying to calm the situation or come to the boys’ aid, but because of a lack of cultural understandings just end up throwing some more wood on the fire. And then the media chimed in and threw some gas on it.
Seems simple enough to me. People disagreeing, throwing negatives towards each other. It’s a microcosm of American social media, save for there were no cat pictures at the protest. All that existed was explosive tribal identities. I would have rather had cat pictures.
I often hear the expression that America is a Christian Nation. Folks might say this for a myriad of reasons. It could be because of a belief that our original founding fathers were Christian, and hence, our nation is Christian (btw, our founding fathers weren’t actually that Christian). Or it could be because of the majority faith of people in the United States is Christianity, and that whole 1st Amendment thing doesn’t matter. Or it could be just because of peoples’ wishful dreaminess that we a Christian nation, and if everyone would just turn to Jesus more, our modern-day civil ills would just go away. I’m not very keen on any one of these reasons, but none of them are the reason why I believe that we are not a Christian nation. The reason why we are not a Christian nation is because we don’t act like it. One of the hallmarks of the teachings of Jesus is grace and forgiveness. And we are anything but a nation of grace and forgiveness. America really doesn’t believe in grace or forgiveness. America believes in scalding, doxing, and condemnation.
See, Jesus is really inconvenient sometimes. Whether it be that prayer Jesus tells us to pray (forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us), or how often he tells us we should forgive someone. In one place he says 77 times. In another place he says not 7 times, but 70 times 7. If you’re doing your math, that’s 490 times. We have a tough enough time even making it to one time, let alone 489 more times after that.
So, what about forgiveness?
Forgiveness and grace haven’t really surrounded the whole event on the mall. Nope. It’s all vitriol. It’s all poison intended for you to consume and spit back out. Forgiveness? Grace? Those things are soooooo 2,000 years ago. They are so out of style.
America is a participatory society. We love to participate in the stories of others. We join with our friends and dump on our enemies. We do this, because in our own heads, we too then get to be right. And the enemies of our friends? And the friends of our enemies? They’re wrong. And all the sudden, in our own heads, we’re great and awesome.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. You could do something else. Something not so enticing or easy. Something far more powerful and uncool at the same time. You could forgive. You could forgive the Covington boys. Nathan Phillips. The Black Hebrew Israelites. Trump. Pelosi. The Democrats. The Republicans. The media. You could keep forgiveness going and forgive Colin Kaepernick, Black Lives Matter activists, cops who shoot people, people who shoot cops, trans people, people who hate trans people, and the list can go on, and on, and on. And while you’re at it you could go on a forgiveness roll and forgive others who have personally done you wrong – family members, friends, enemies. You could make forgiveness cool again, for like the first time in 2000 years. You know… like Jesus wants us to do.
It’s your call. It all really depends on what kind of world you want to live in. Do you want to live in a world where you’re right? Or do you want to live in a world with grace and peace.
I choose the later.
Smell ya later,
What are Grumpnotes? Grumpnotes are thoughts throughout the week upon various happenings and events. They are scattered and distended – just like my bowels.
Voting and Natives
80 year-old retiree: “Pastor, all of our problems were actually caused by the Native Americans.”
Grumpy Pastor: “What? What are you talking about?”
80 year-old retiree: “Yes. Way back when the Europeans came over, the Natives were way too soft on immigration.”
Have you heard about this one? My home state of North Dakota decided to change some voting laws, requiring folks to have their physical addresses on their ID’s when they show up to vote. Click the link here to watch the video from CNN. This is problematic for the 5 reservations in the state, as typically natives don’t have physical addresses on their ID’s. Now, in defense of North Dakota, they do have a history of doing really, really dumb things. Sometimes their legislature just can’t help themselves sometimes.
Now, I’m not going to get in the back-and-forth of who is right and who is wrong. I think that argument has just about as much hope as getting my two-year old son to change his own diaper. Sure… he might end up getting a diaper on, but the walls and his clothes are going to pretty brown and messy after all is said and done. And also, I’m only going to make one reference to a past post I did in which I cited how Natives and Whites in North Dakota don’t like each other, and that’s the real problem. Which BTW, you know that whole University of North Dakota nickname thing years back? It’s the same exact thing. The majority of whites and natives got no love for each other – it’d just be more refreshing if more were honest about it.
No. I’m going to pose a different question. That question is, how much longer are natives in North Dakota going to take it? Seriously. This was a jerk move. While one could go back-and-forth on the policy itself, how it was done is not up for debate. If folks in power wanted to, they could have gone to the reservations and said “We think there’s a problem with voter fraud. The way your reservation functions, with Id’s that don’t have physical addresses on them, how could we work together so we don’t accidentally deprive a bunch of you of your ability to vote?”
But nobody did that.
Because the white folks in power… they just don’t care.
White folks not caring in North Dakota is nothing new. There are lots of examples… like housing and job discrimination, silent behind-the-back slurs like “Prairie N****r” – when I grew up there I saw lots of these things. So really, I ask, how much longer will Natives tolerate the crap that gets thrown at them? I think they’d be a lot better off if they just lost their cool and told white people not to come to the reservation anymore for nickel slot machines, $10 buffets, and bad 80’s rock acts. Don’t show up at the polls, the state legislature, or any meeting they’re asked to dress indigenous and look pretty. Instead put some emotional walls up at those reservation borders and tell white people they’re not welcome. The game is rigged, and it’s rigged for natives to lose. So why even play the game?
What has Become of Voting?
I think voting used to be a sacred and holy act at the altar of democracy. When I cast my first ballot in the 1994 primary election, patriotic love for my country, my privileges, and my sense of responsibility oozed out of my skin pours. It’s not that way anymore for me, and I suspect I’m not alone. Now voting is something you do while holding your nose and trying not to puke. And then after you voted you get that red “I Voted” sticker and you post a selfie with it. I think the day is coming where you don’t post that selfie to show your awe inspired participation in democracy, but instead to show you actually went through with it. Kind of like the picture you get when you do those eating challenges at restaurants… the Blazin’ Wings challenge at BWW’s, or that one restaurant I always stopped at in Devil’s Lake that had a 12 egg omelette.
I voted early this year because I’m out of town on election day. I know it didn’t feel like holy democracy. It felt cursed. Looking up and down the ballot at candidates who don’t deserve any votes at all. candidates who lack integrity. Candidates who serve all sorts of special interests. Candidates who cannot answer a question if their life depended upon it. Candidates who lack a backbone and don't have principles and values. A few local candidates I liked… because I know them well. But aside from that, voting is an exercise in looking for who is the least awful. And we’re all waiting for a candidate with baited breath. It reminds me of that Poison song, “Give Me Something to Believe In.”
What a damned hot mess. We’ll be waiting a long, long time.
The Sword in the Lake
My daughter came home with this story, and it peaked my curiosity. An 8 year old girl finds a 1500 year-old Viking sword in a lake in Sweden. And Sweden is now joking she should be the queen.
Amidst all sorts of negativity out there in the world, with weapons being thrown all over the place (usually in the form of words, malice, actions, and hatred), it was sure nice to read this story. It's a positive story about a weapon, instead of a negative one.
Saga Vanecek, you are the queen of the news lately. Our world needs some light and your find was exactly that - a little light for the world amidst the darkness.
It’s been real. Smell ya later,